Battle Against Mink Farm in Shulgivka

16.9.2017 - Shulhivka

The village of Shulgivka lies 100 km from the city of Dnipro in the Dnipropetrovsk region, on the border with the Poltava region. It has 1,500 inhabitants. In 2014, the district council decided that 43 hectares of land that the locals used primarily as cow pasture would sell to a company that started building a huge mink farm, an industrial concept with a capacity of half a million animals. The company cut down 11 hectares of forest and began building halls.

Public protests

Local residents have been actively protesting against construction since spring 2014. They were afraid of water losses in wells and water and soil pollution. Shulgivka is the only inhabited area in the planned National Park which should be established in this region. There is a large number of protected plants and animals in the area. The local people picked up the signatures, they turned to the councilor and the regional governor, but without success. In summer 2014 protests intensified. The local people organized a blockade of roads to the mink farm. During the protests there were violent clashes and the farm security physically attacked and injured several demonstrators. Since that time police hasn't investigated the incident properly. Initially, local people lacked materials to help them determine the real impact of the farm's operation on the environment. Later, they managed to find out that the Environmental Inspectorate recorded a total of 44 violations of the law during two inspections, including an illegal building on land not owned by the farm and the absence of a building permit. However, the inspection imposed only very small fines on the farm in the amount of several hundred Ukrainian hryvnia. Local concerns over water have been confirmed: the farm consumes more water for its operation than officially reports.

The sludge scandal

In 2016, toxic sludge appeared in a small stream near the village. Many fish died, and several people suffered from poisoning. The NGO called Shulgivska Gromada organized the removal of sludge samples and their analysis in the laboratory. Based on the results, NGO came to the suspicion that a mink farm could become a sludge leak. The case has not recurred due to the media scandal. Due to the inefficiency of environmental inspections, Shulgivska Gromada suspects local authorities of corruption. The mink farm belongs to the company "Pro-Construction Complex (PSK)" Agroprominvest " which is a subsidiary of the corporation AgroOven. The owner of this company is  Viktor Petrovich Zavorotny, deputy of the Dnepropetrovsk Regional Council and member of the Commission for Ecology.

Proceedings before the European Court of Human Rights

Shulgivska Gromada attempted to contest building permit for a mink fur farm before Ukrainian courts. According to the NGO The Architecture and Construction Inspectorate, an administrative authority which issued the permit, had inadequate documentation to issue the permit (environmental impact analysis) and therefore it issued the permit illegally. The action was filed to the court of first instance (Administrative Court of Kyiv City) on 23 October 2015. Within the action the NGO stated that the mink fur farm based on the issued building permit presents an elevated threat for the environment of Shulgovka Petrykivskyi district of Dnipropetrovsk region. The NGO described violations of law which made the building permit illegal, especially violation of Legal standards for health and the environment, violation of duty to save environment, unlawful breach of sanitary protection zones, and violation of Ukrainian Land Act. The Ukrainian courts rejected the action of Shulgivska Gromada with a justification that the NGO was not a party to the building permit proceedings but only member of general public. On 15 June 2016 Shulgivska Gromada filed the appeal against the decision of the court of first instance. The decision of the court of first instance has not been delivered to Shulgivska Gromada who, therefore, could not have met a ten-day period for filing an appeal which violated his procedural rights. The failure to deliver the decision violated the right of the plaintiff for due process as it effectively prevented the plaintiff from filing an appeal. Despite of submitted argumentation the appeal of Shulgivska Gromada was rejected on 6 July 2016. On 3 August 2016 Shulgivska Gromada filed the cassation complaint to the Supreme Administrative Court of Ukraine. In 2017, on behalf of the inhabitants of the village of Shulgivka, Arnika brought an action before the European Court of Human Rights due to damage to their rights when deciding to build a mink farm and resulting environmental damage. The court dismissed the action, but the preparation of documentation helped local partners explain how to prepare cases for the European Court of Human Rights.

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